Media and America’s Mental Age

For Dawn:

“Booby” — a word my 8 year old and 10 year old daughters use to describe their (lack of/soon to be?) breasts.  “Booby” — a word used by somebody at AOL to describe the side of Lindsay Lohan’s breast which was apparently available for viewing in a shirt she was wearing. I have been irritated at the whole gossip industry for awhile and have not been able to figure out why until last night when my daughter asked for a towel after her bath and used the word. (“Put the towel on the sink. I don’t want you to see my booby”.  Now that I think about it, the fact that my 8 year old didn’t want me to see one and an adult at AOL did want me to makes me proud of my daughter and further disgusted at the whole gossip media.   Somebody’s got boundaries and somebody doesn’t.

Earlier in the week, some other gossip columnist wrote “Lindsay Likes Sushi”  while the story was about Lohan’s relationship with her girlfriend.  This is probably too subtle for my kids, but by the age of — what, 13? — this would be a joke they would hear from one of their male counterparts. Apparently, the two women went out to dinner at a Sushi restaurant before going home and fighting.  (ooooh, cat fight!)

First off, why is their relationship any of my business? Why is it news at all? And her outfit or lack of it? I wouldn’t want to see her breast if  I did know them personally — and I don’t.  What’s the deal with grown men (it usually is) making millions of dollars talking like 8 year old girls?

War in Iraq? War in Afghanistan? State budget cuts that affect our children and our families? Healthcare? OK, but let’s talk about Michael Jackson. He’s more important. Newsflash:  Michael Jackson is still dead, and probably will be for a while.

But it’s not limited to the gossip press.  Awhile ago, there was a front cover article at Newsweek or Time that covered the president’s first 100 days and the banners were “The Blackberry President”  and “A Thug Grows Up”  (or something like it) right next to it. Maybe I’m the only one that was upset by it, but I couldn’t believe that their editors didn’t catch it, which left me assuming that someone meant to do that.  How does that work?

We like cute and clever in this society when we talk about celebrities or newsmakers. In addition to the problem of acting publicly like 10 year olds, we now have the problem that we now confuse “celebrities” and “newsmakers”.  The memorial to Walter Cronkite this past week highlights this point.  Cronkite assumed the audience was at least out of high school, possibly even attending college, I think.  His generation of newscasters never confused “gossip” with “news” or “celebrity” with “world leader”, and I think that’s as it should be. Couldn’t we go back to that in these difficult, changing times when our energies are divided enough?

The other sign that the media thinks we’re children is pundits.  The actual story is 1 minute long and the “analysis” of what it means politically (somewhere between political gossip and the parental figure telling us what it’s all about) goes on for 20 minutes.   What about just giving us the facts and letting us decide?  Someone in my church gave a link on Facebook to the actual healthcare bills being presented.  That’s what real people seem to want.  We used to call it “journalism”.

It’s difficult to understand the world’s issues just because they’re complex. They don’t get any less complex because we have little or no facts. If we are asked to make adult decisions, it would be nice if we were given adult information to make them.  And by “adult”, I don’t mean a side shot of Lindsay Lohan’s breast.


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